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Constitutional requirements sacrosanct for ministerial appointments – Umeagbalasi, ex CLO chair

By Newswatch Times
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Nze Emeka Umeagbalasi was former Chairman, Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and one time Vice- Chairman of the Southeast Zonal Management Committee of the organization. He is presently the Board Chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety).

Umeagbalasi, who has won several awards including from the Nigerian Red Cross and Children’s Rights Advocacy Group in the Southeast, is an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Exchange Program (IVLP) of the United States Department of State on NGO Management in USA (class of June 2013) In this interview with ALPHONSUS EZE , Umegbalasi faulted the lopsided appointments of President Mohammed Buhari, delay in appointment of members of Federal Executive Council (FEC), lack of due process in his anti-graft war among other issues. Excerpts:

How will you assess the appointments made by Buhari so far? Are they in line with the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 constitution?

The Buhari administration has made a total of 29 major appointments since 30th May, 2015 and as at 4th September, 2015, not even one of them is from the Southeast zone; thereby grossly violating Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (regional or geopolitical spread). The relevant Section provides as follows: “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity,

and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies”. Also, Section 171 (5) of the Constitution further provides as follows: “in exercising his powers of appointment under this section (Section 169 creating the Civil Service of the Federation), the President shall have regard to the Federal Character and the need to promote national unity.”

Below is the graphic and geopolitical breakdown of the 29 top presidential appointments made by the Buhari administration between 30th May and 28th August 2015:

Aide de Camp to President: Lt. Col Abubakar Lawal, (Kano State, North-West). Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the President: Femi Adesina, (Osun State, South-West).

. Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President: Garba Shehu, (Kano State, North-West). State Chief of Protocol/Special Assistant (Presidential Matters): Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, (Jigawa State, North-West). National Security Adviser: Babagana Monguno (Borno State, North-East). Chief of Air Staff: Sadique Abubakar, (Bauchi State, North-East), Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC): Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu (Niger State, North-Central).

Others are: Chief of Defence Intelligence: Monday Riku Morgan (Benue State, North-Central). Director General, State Security Services, (SSS): Lawal Daura, (Katsina State, North-West). Acting Chairperson, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): Amina Zakari, (Jigawa State, North-West). Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA: Habibu Abdulahi (Kano State, North-West). Special Adviser, Niger Delta Amnesty Office: Paul Boroh, (Bayelsa State, South-South). Acting Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration, Safety and Security Agency, (NIMASA): Baba Haruna Jauro (Yobe State, North-East),Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission: Umaru Dambatta (Kano State, North-West).

Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS): Babatunde Fowler, (Lagos State, South-West).16. Director General, Budget Office of the Federation: Aliyu Gusau, (Zamfara State, North-West).

Secretary to the Government of the Federation: Engr. Babachir David Lawal (Adamawa State, Northeast). Chief of Staff to the President: Alhaji Abba Kyari (Borno State, Northeast), Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Service: Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd.) (Nassarawa State, North-Central). Controller General, Nigerian Immigration Service: Mr. Kure Martin Abeshi (Nassarawa State, North-Central). SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate): Senator Ita S.J. Enang (Akwa Ibom State, South-south). Group Managing Director of NNPC: Emmanuel Kachikwu (Delta State, South-south). Accountant General of the Federation: Ahmed Idris (Kano State, North-West).

Chief of Defense Staff: Aboyomi Olonishakin (Ekiti State, Southwest). Chief of Army Staff: Tukur Buratai (Borno State, Northeast), Chief of Naval Staff: Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (Cross River State, South-south). Head of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR): Mordacai Ledan (Kaduna State, Northwest). SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Reps): Hon. Suleiman A. Kawu (Kano State, Northwest). Director General of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON): Ahmed Lawan Kuru (Northwest).

Of the 29 presidential appointments analyzed above, the North took 22 slots and the South seven, and as it concerns the geopolitical allocation/spread, mandatorily provided in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, Northwest zone alone took twelve slots, followed by the Northeast with six, North-Central four, South-south four, Southwest three and the Southeast was left with zero slot. In the present composition of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Buhari administration, judicially, presidentially and legislatively speaking, the North controls 80%, if not more.

For instance, the following key public offices of the Federation are presently in the hands of the North: President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Federation, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Comptroller General of Customs,

Director-General of State Security Services (SSS), National Security Advisor, Director General of NIMASA, Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Accountant-General of the Federation, Commandant General of the Nigerian Security & Civil Defence Corps, Chief Security Officer to the President, ADC to the President,

Principal Secretary to the President, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Chairman of the EFCC, Head of Service of the Federation, Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Director General of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Chairman of National Agency for Drugs & Control (NAFDAC).

It is therefore immoral, despicable, condemnable, shameful and unconstitutional for the Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina to defend and justify the grossly lopsided and constitutionally impeachable appointments made so far by his boss. The 1999 Constitution does not give the President power to take recourse to sectional or constitutional appointments spread according to his whims and caprices or at his own convenient time. Rather, the Constitution commanded and still commands President Muhammadu Buhari, as he presently is, to adhere strictly to the federal character at all times including in his presidential policies, actions and conducts.

Besides, waiting to “balance the constitutional imbalances” during his long awaited ministerial appointments is totally deceitful and a smokescreen approach. This is because the President has totally achieved his “nothernization and sectional governance policy aims and objectives”, powered by politics of exclusion and segregation. As matter of fact, the President has cornered for his region all powerful, sensitive and juicy appointments. What are left in the form of “ministers” are “fish eaters” and not “fishermen”.

The issue of ministerial appointments has their own separate Constitutional requirements and must not be used to further confuse and mislead Nigerians. In the plain language and command of Section 147 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, “any appointment of minister under subsection 2 of this Section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of Section 14 (3) of this Constitution. Section 147 (4) further commands: “provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid, the President shall appoint at least one minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State”.

What of his anti-graft crusade, has Buhari been following due process?

We have come to a firm conclusion that the anti corruption policy direction of the Buhari administration is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti graft control mechanisms as clearly stated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2005 (entered into force), which Nigeria ratified on 14th December 2004.

Buhari’s anti graft policy direction is in all intents and purposes, haunted by “three terminal sicknesses of: moral burden or incompetence, selective application and misguided approach.” For the records, official or government corruption occurs when a public office holder or other government employees act reprehensively in an official capacity for personal or material gain. It is also official misuse of powers or public resources for personal gain or with criminal intent.

Though countries or States-Parties to the UNCAC Convention were allowed to use the concept of “mala prohibita corruption” (defining and criminalizing corruption according to States), but the United Nations gave 60% attention to preventive measures as the most effective modern control mechanisms. Investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and sentencing got 20% and international cooperation, technical cooperation and information exchange among Member-States got the remaining 20%. Preventive Measures include institutional reforms and institutional capacity building, overhauling of anti graft agencies and laws in accordance with international best practices, stiffening sentencing processes and categories other than death penalty; and institutionalization of probity and accountability in public governance and offices as well as effective collaborations with formidable, unbiased and non conformist civil society organizations and the media.

Most importantly, those driving the modern anti graft engines must be transparent and accountable at all times. It is a globally established fact that the modern corruption has a commander-in-chief, which is moral corruption. There are modern dimensions of corruption, which include morality corruption, legislated corruption, electoral corruption and political corruption (grand political corruption and petty political corruption).

Modern agents of corruption include fraud (criminal fraud), money laundering (including terrorist financing), bribery, criminal extortion, forgery, embezzlement, kickbacks, confidence trickery, tax evasion, tax avoidance, criminal taxation (multiple taxation and tax diversion), contract inflation and abandonment, over invoicing and false pretence. Other triggers of corruption include criminal gratification, criminal patronage, cronyism, favouritism and nepotism.

Apart from the fact that there are 22 or more anti graft agencies and criminal enactments in Nigeria, which include the EFCC Act (2004), the ICPC Act (2000), the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004, the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offenses Act (1995), the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Other Financial Malpractices in Banks Act (1994), the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act of 1991; and Miscellaneous Offenses Act, the Corrupt Proceeds and Properties’ Forfeiture Act of 1999, and the Criminal and the Penal Codes of 2004; corruption and abuse of office are also constitutionally prohibited in Nigeria in Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. Section 15 (5) of the Constitution provides as follows: “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office”.

Therefore, our submission to it is that the Buhari administration’s anti graft or corruption policy direction is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti corruption control mechanisms as hereby stated above. It is an indisputable fact that every central government in Nigeria since 1966 has laid claim to fight against corruption. As recently as late 1990s and first decade of 2000s, over $1.97Billion was recovered by the military and civilian governments of Retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan; mainly from “Abacha loots”. Their whereabouts till date are left in the hands of God knows who.

Yet, the two administrations above are still adjudged by many as “corruption friendly”. Despite pockets of defects in the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC era, it remains the best civil, institutional and procedural anti graft campaign in the history of Nigeria. The efficiency, competence and international recognition of the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC led to attraction to the Commission of millions of dollars yearly from international grant and development institutions. At a point, the EFCC possessed the capacity to operate and survive without the federal government subventions.

The EFCC suffered presidential and executive highhandedness during the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration; leading to the appointment of corruption friendly Attorney General of the Federation and another corruption friendly person as the Chairman of the EFCC. The reprehensive act was perpetrated using a questionable former governor of one of the states in the old Middle-Belt Region.

Conversely, the Buhari military’s war against indiscipline and corruption of 1984-1985 remains the most brutal, uncivil, crude and globally condemned. The president’s current approach to corruption is totally in conflict with the principles of due process and an attempt to replicate or repeat his crude approach of his military khaki days. The major reason why anti corruption policies and actions have eluded Nigeria is because of unclean hands or lack of moral uprightness of those leading the anti graft campaigns in the country. Corruption in Nigeria has now transformed into meta-impunity and immunity. In the world over, an estimated sum of $1trillion is still lost to the globe’s captains of corruption every year.

In Nigeria, Corruption through international money laundering is steadily becoming out-fashioned and corruption through criminal properties and investments is overtaking it. The number of hotels, filling stations, campus hostels, corporate properties and liquid investments springing up in choice cities of the country, is alarming and shocking.

Corruption by money laundering is now majorly carried out through purchase of shares in national and international business companies including telecommunications and oil and gas. Ten years ago, the country’s captains of corruption particularly serving and former top public office holders hardly allowed open inclusion and mentioning of their names as owners of properties publicly suspected to have been gotten or procured illicitly, but today, their names are mentioned or associated with those properties with reckless abandon.

These explain why we held that the Buhari administration lacks moral standing or uprightness to effectively fight or control corruption. By the express provision of Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari is guilty of abuse of office including his presidential sole administrator-ship of Nigeria for three months running and a legion of constitutional infractions and procedural blunders.

The grand import of this is that “corruption fought selectively and parochially” amounts to corruption fighting corruption. And it cannot stand the test of time. If the Buhari administration is serious in fighting and controlling corruption, which we seriously doubt, then it has to be total or holistic. To be able to fight and control corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Yemi Osibanjo must lead the way by first making their assets declarations public, uncorrupted and un-doctored; in addition to provision of concrete answers to those questions above. This is what we meant and still mean by those leading fight against corruption in Nigeria must fight same with clean hands.

How do you see the delay in the appointment of ministers?

This is another fundamental breach of the 1999 Constitution, particularly Section 147 of the Constitution. It also took him almost 90 days to appoint the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which is another violation of Section 171 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. He has also abused his presidential office by his sole administratorship disposition in utter violation of Section 15 (5) of the Constitution. President Buhari’s presidential office is a creation of Section 130 of the Constitution. In all, his conducts above highlighted are unknown to the 1999 Constitution and the Civil Service Rules of the Federation.

Do you believe that Buhari is taking concrete steps to improve our economy?

What is needed at this point in time is not economic achievements but forensic analysis of his economic policy direction, if any. In matters of the said policy direction in economy such as employment, no policy direction of international standard exists so far under Buhari administration. The employment growth is even going from zero to super-zero.

The latest development following the presidential suspension of the Controller General of the Immigration Service over alleged ISIS insurgency conspiracy is a clear case in point. As reported in the media, a presidential directive from the Buhari administration has been given for the ongoing recruitment training involving newly recruited Immigration cadets to be discontinued. Just last March 2014, fifteen young graduates attending the Immigration Service recruitment screening exercise died summarily and unceremoniously. Now, if those in training are sent packing, is the employment growth not dying under Buhari Presidency?

Till date, Nigeria has no modern trade and investment or industrial (development) vision. Skill acquisition policy especially for macro and micro credit facilities is nonexistent. The worst of all is that the public funds needed to turn things around are legislatively siphoned and criminally diverted by political office holders. We ask again: I ask what is the Buhari administration policy directions towards these?

In USA, for instance, importation policy is sustained despite its ability to produce and export most of what it imports in commercial quantities. USA also has crude oil discovered decades ago, yet it still imports it. It also imports textiles and electronics from Asia following high costs associated with their production in USA. This is for the enhancement of the social lives of its down-top citizens. In trade and investment, balance of trade and payment or trade surplus remain the global best practices. And these are not achieved by outright banning of importation hiding under any cover.

To fight money laundering or to get naira to appreciate against dominant foreign currencies, strategic economic policy turnaround is required. President Buhari’s current monetary policy is akin to Uganda under Idi Amin Dada, who pointed a gun on the head of his Central Bank Governor and commanded him to make his national currency thicker than that of British Pound Sterling. During the oil boom of late 70s in Nigeria, naira was strong following oil-economy growth courtesy of sharp rise in the international price of crude oil.

Today, naira has depreciated steadily losing over N40.00 to US Dollar less than three months in 2015. To make Nigeria strong and its naira internationally competitive, there is need for “economic development” or industrialization of the country’s 33 solid mineral deposits and agriculture, as well as steady advancement in science and technology including information technology. These must be propelled by purposeful and visionary political leadership, which Buhari is not providing.

What do say about security under Buhari administration?

We are yet to see President Buhari’s policy direction on security. Till date, Nigeria still operates a national policy on security adopted in 1979 under Obasanjo’s military regime. Besides, modern security is no longer rested on gun culture or AK-47 driven alone. The United Nations had in 1994 formulated the concept of Human Security, which include food security, environmental security, economic security, health security, personal security, community security and political security.

These seven dimensions of Human Security are fundamental guides for any country formulating its policy on security. For now, Nigerians are still far from being secured or feeling of being secured from want and fear. In Africa, it is only South Africa that has fully embraced the concept of Human Security. Even the insurgents he promised to wipe out so soon have been proving difficult. So far, his performance in fighting Boko Haram insurgents has not yielded any dividend.

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